The positive view, short term, seems to be that the new pope has chosen to name himself after the good St. Francis (aka ‘Frank the Hippie’) and not the money-loving prick who co-founded the Jesuit Order as an excuse to convert the Oriental heathens while not-so-covertly assisting the powerful Portugese Empire to expand its business interests in India, China, and Japan. (Last time, by my recollection, there was a fashion for naming young Catholics ‘Francis Xavier’ involved American participation in the Korean War. That generation of FXs, now in their fifties & sixties, are running the “traditionalist” quasi-religious organizations who believe, against all historic evidence, that their god-made-flesh Jesus preferred the company of Pharisees and bankers to that of women, gays, poors, and other social unmentionables).
For a more informed commentary, I point you to someone who didn’t sidle for the exit the minute parochial school let out, Mr. Charles P. Pierce:
OK, so he’s the first pope from Latin America, and the first Francis, which ties him with Hilarius and a few dozen others for last place in the papal names rankings. He’s also a member of The Society — A Jesuit pope, the first one, which means Dan Brown gets five more novels… Most important, he’s 76-years old which means, quite honestly, that the man’s a caretaker, or that there is a real faction within the cardinal-electors arrayed against the idea of very long papacies on the order of that of John Paul II. The last pope, in a conclave that was a bigger fix than the 1919 World Series, was the obvious choice, but he also was 78 upon his election, and he reigned only five years. It’s hard to imagine Francis I going much longer than that. It’s also hard to imagine that this wasn’t some kind of plan all along…
And, from the inside, Jorge Bergoglio must have looked like a safe bet. He edged away from liberation theology during the time that John Paul II brought the hammer down on its proponents…
He also has ties to the shadowy network of international conservative Catholic organizations that John Paul II enabled and encouraged throughout his long reign. In Bergoglio’s case, it’s the Comunione e Liberazione movement in Italy, a group based in the conservatibe backlash against the Second Vatican Council that has been conspicuously involved in Italian politics. (Its newspaper, Il Sabato, came very close to calling for outright Catholic theocracy in Italy.) Sylvio Berlusconi is also quite a fan.
So, at first glance, we have a deft clerical politician with a long track record of managing to straddle controversial issues while leaning always toward the powers in Rome. We also have someone who may not be pope for very long. We also have the perfect product of the Church produced by John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Their papacies continue unabated.
More details at the link, as ever.